MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – The latest figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that nearly 18 veterans a day will kill themselves in the United States. That’s a number that Marine Corps veteran Mark Provencher, Jr. says is too high.
“Eighteen is too much, no matter how you look at it,” Provencher said. “Information must be disseminated. It should be daily. It needs to be present and relevant to what veterans are going through right now. “
Provencher is a regional coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs covering Region 8 of Wisconsin. He works with veterans living in Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Columbia, Dodge, Washington and Ozaukee counties, connecting them with the resources available to them after their service.
“There are a lot of different mental health issues,” Provencher explained. “They go through a lot of different things that really complicate their situation.”
The new ReachOutWis.org campaign has a similar goal to Provencher: to reduce the number of veteran suicides per day from 18 to zero.
“It went on for a few years, in partnership with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center and the Medical College of Wisconsin. It’s powerful,” said Dan Buttery, veteran and current president and CEO of War Memorial Center in Milwaukee. “It’s a combination of TV spots and radio spots. We’re going to do a lot of digital targeting.”
Dr Bertrand Berger, clinical psychologist and division chief for the Milwaukee VA, is optimistic that the work behind the new campaign will have a positive impact on the veteran community.
“Keep that number down,” Dr. Berger said. “We want to reduce the suicide rate and we really think this project will make a difference.”
Radio and TV commercials feature real-life veterans as actors, depicting real-life situations people might experience in everyday life. Brent Hibbard is one of those veterans.
“I had actually gone through the VA hospitalization program. I had my own difficulties. It was a very positive and positive experience,” Hibbard said, explaining why he had participated in the campaign. He had this message to share with his fellow veterans with suicidal thoughts: “Don’t think of yourself. Think about your family. Think about what we owe those soldiers who did not return home.
The campaign also features a familiar face of Wisconsin sports, with Packers Super Bowl champion Daryn Colledge speaking about the challenges the NFL and military veterans face when it comes to mental health. He also talks about his own decision to serve in the armed forces after his professional football career.
As for Provencher, he continues to help veterans through his work and his own personal push-up campaign, posting videos of himself doing 25 push-ups on his Facebook page in the past 618 days. That’s 15,450 push-ups on Wednesday. It’s a mission he doesn’t intend to stop anytime soon.
“My goal, or my mission, is to do these push-ups until I can’t do them anymore,” Provencher said.
If you or a veteran you know is suffering from thoughts of suicide, visit https://reachoutwis.org/ for resources available to help you.